SAN ANTONIO (KENS5) Even before the stay home, work safe order took effect Tuesday night, people were staying home more as bars, restaurant dining rooms, gyms and other facilities were forced to close.
The anxieties caused by the many changes that are happening, apparently creating tensions at home. The San Antonio Police Department said they have seen a 21% increase in call volume in calls relating to family violence.
From March 1-23, 2019, officers responded to 2,672 such calls. For the same period this year, officers responded to 3,236 family violence calls.
While every call doesn't indicate an arrest or a criminal act, police said it's important to remain vigilant.
"Domestic violence is a crime that thrives on secrecy," the agency's public information office said in an email. "The community needs to be aware that although we are limiting our interactions with friends, families and neighbors we have to be mindful that these situations are occurring."
Despite courts postponing all non-essential criminal and civil cases, Judge Monique Diaz, who is also the co-chair of the Collaborative Commission on Domestic Violence, said the courts remain open for serious cases, including those relating to domestic violence.
“One of the greatest precursors of domestic violence is an increase of stress," Diaz said. "And we know a lot of us are under a lot of stress right now trying to figure out how we’re going to pay our bills, how we’re going to work remotely, how we’re going to take care of our families and friends.”
Diaz said the court system has not seen a marked change in the number of protective orders issued but that they are monitoring for any changes.
"We anticipate that that will likely increase over the next couple of weeks, we're not really sure what the effect is going to be," Diaz said. "We've seen around the world, unfortunately, there's been a trend of increases of domestic violence as a result of people having to stay home with their abusers amid this COVID crisis."
While the city and county remain under the Stay Home, Work Safe order, the Bexar County Family Justice Center remains open to assist victims with their needs.
Crystal Chandler is the director of the Family Justice Center. She said it's important for victims to know they are not alone, even as people are being asked to stay indoors.
"I want all of the victims to know: Please, please don't stay in a dangerous situation," Chandler said. "There are people in our community, including the Family Justice Center, who are ready and willing to help."
The Family Justice Center recently rolled out an online protective order application feature, bexarcountyprotectiveorders.org, which allows victims to get help remotely.
"When a victim submits an online protect order application, a crime victim liaison and protective order advocate will contact them to collect important information and safety plan with them," Chandler said.
Chandler said the Family Justice Center will not turn away people who come to the center in person, but asked that those who are in need of services call ahead or use digital tools to get in contact with center staff.
The center is still working with survivors on safety planning, financial literacy education and more.
Chandler said the Rape Crisis Center answers if people call the center after normal hours and that those who call after hours regarding a protective order will have their call returned the following morning. She added that those who don't have access to the Internet or are not comfortable filling out the protective order application online can reach out via phone and staff will assist with the application. She said there is assistance available for Spanish speakers as well.